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COVID-19 Vaccination Passport. Photo credit: Lukas
Berlin

EU countries agree on a uniform vaccination passport

According to media reports, the member states of the European Union have agreed on a uniform vaccination card for travel within the Union. The EU states are therefore defining their position on the so-called "Green Passport", which should be operational by the end of June.

Published: April 17, 2021, 5:00 am

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    EU Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders published a message on Twitter on Wednesday in which he welcomed the agreement of the EU states. The plan is to use the uniform vaccination pass this summer. Also known as a “Green Pass”, this is intended to provide information on whether a person can spread the Coronavirus or at least how likely it is.

    In addition to information about vaccinations, the certificate should also contain test results and information about a Coronavirus infection. This would make it possible for the relevant people to travel again without the obligation to test or quarantine.

    The issue of a uniform vaccination certificate was an important concern, especially for countries that are dependent on tourism, such as Greece, Spain and Cyprus. Some of these countries had already worked out national solutions. The agreement now proposed would oblige the national authorities to issue the said EU document to their citizens upon request.

    However, the decision as to which restrictions will be lifted and whether the certificate allows further relief remains with the individual EU countries. Nevertheless, the 27 states undertook to recognize the vaccination certificates of the other EU states. According to the reports, the “Green Passport” should not be a requirement for travel within the EU, but merely help to facilitate border crossings. What exactly this means is still unclear. In addition, the vaccination card should only be used as long as the Corona crisis lasts.

    An important detail: The respective countries should also be able to determine themselves whether they recognize vaccinations with vaccines that are only approved in certain countries, but not in the entire EU. The next step is to be approved by the EU Parliament so that the details can then be negotiated between the EU institutions. Some MEPs still have concerns about data protection, in particular.

    For Germany, it is planned that before the summer vacation people should be able to prove that they are completely vaccinated using a smartphone app. This was announced on Wednesday from government circles, as the German Press Agency (dpa) reported. The digital certificate is intended to give those affected the opportunity to quickly and forgery-proof provide evidence that they have been fully vaccinated and therefore regain certain basic rights again, for example when traveling on vacation.

    The certificates should not be stored centrally on a server, but rather on the user’s smartphone. In addition to the entry in the analogue yellow vaccination certificate, people who do not have a smartphone receive a printout of the digitally readable vaccination certificate as a QR code on paper. Even if the smartphone is lost or changed, the certificate can be read into a smartphone again using the printed QR code.

    The digital vaccination certificates are to be issued in the vaccination centers and at medical practices. The German government is currently looking for a method by which people who have already been fully vaccinated can receive their certificate retrospectively. The federal government is also discussing whether Corona infections that have been overcome should also be evaluated in the same way as complete vaccination protection but this may depend on research results.

    As previously stated in the Official Journal of the European Union, the digital vaccination certificate will be created in Germany under the leadership of the American technology group IBM. The Cologne start-up Ubirch, the Swabian IT service provider Bechtle and Govdigital, a cooperative association of ten IT service providers from the public sector, are also involved.

    Similar to the official Corona warning app of the German government, the development of the system is to be programmed as an open source project and made transparent. The vaccination certificate should then be stored either in the Corona warning app or a separate application programmed by IBM. Contrary to the concepts originally discussed, the solution is not to rely on encryption and storage in a so-called blockchain, but on traditional encryption techniques.

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